Thrip infestation, debts, suicides: Plight of red chilli farmers in Telangana

Hyderabad: The red chilli farmers from Khammam and Warangal districts in Telangana protested in front of the Agriculture Commissioner’s office in Hyderabad on Friday. Owing to a severe thrip infestation, they said that they had to pull out their ailing crops. The thrips infestation, which carried a virus, damaged crops to the point where they could not be revived at all, thus leaving the farmers embittered.

The plight of mirchi farmers

Krishna Raju Rao is unable to repay the Rs 20 lakh loan he had borrowed from debtors. The purugulu (thrips infestation) which attacked his crops has rendered him hapless. Like many other farmers from the Khammam district, he is struggling, unable to repay his debt and lead his day-to-day existence properly.

Krishna Raju had invested in his crops in September and one fine October morning, he was shocked to witness the utter devastation the thrips had caused.

Kutumba Rao, another farmer, narrates a similar story. A resident of China Munagala village in Khammam district, Kutumba has to repay the Rs 10 lakh he had borrowed from fertiliser shop owners.

“Maa paristhiti ki emi margam ledu antunaru vyavasaya adhikarulu. Em cheyalo ardamavatamledu. Chala daarananga undi paristhti (Agriculture officers say there is no solution to our current problem. We don’t know what to do. The situation is very dire),” he told

If these two individuals and, in fact, all the mirchi farmers plagued with crop infestation are unable to repay their debts, their land is likely to be seized by debtors, thus rendering the farmers destitute. The farmers claim that even the scientists from the agriculture department have asked them to pull out their plants in order to protect their land.

“No one is telling us how to remedy this situation. Officers and scientists just ask to kill the mirchi and grow other crops. How is this feasible?” asked Krishna Raju.

Appeals and dharnas

Discussing the same, Telangana Rhythu Sangham leader Rambabu said that despite repeated pleas and protests, the government has turned a blind eye to the issue.

“The mirchi farmers protested in front of the Collectorate office and later appealed to the Mandal Revenue Officer as well. Seven farmers have already taken their lives in the Khammam district. Farmers in Telangana, as well as those in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district, are suffering. The hope is that the dharna at Agriculture Commissioner’s office yields some results,” said Rambabu.

Why thrips infestations happen in the first place?

A noted entomologist from the Agriculture Research Institute in Rajendranagar, Dr SJ Rahman discussing the scientific aspects of the problem remarked that the issue is fairly complex.

“The thrips issue is affecting the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. With limited access to land and the lack of availability of the requisite pesticides/insecticides, the tenant farmers resort to whatever pest-control mechanisms are available. This could in turn result in the resurgence of pests and hence it is ill-advised,” he said.

Dr Rahman argues that the best way to deal with the problem going forward is to ensure that the Government of India’s advisory on the issue is taken seriously. “The advisory came into existence after experts, agriculture scientists, and other officials from state departments visited the affected areas,” he stated. While there is no immediate solution, adhering to stipulated guidelines can remedy the problem gradually.

However, it is important to note that the advisory doesn’t solve the current crisis of debt and loss the mirchi farmers find themselves in. According to an official from the Telangana agriculture department, the representation submitted by the farmers at Friday’s dharna will be sent to the government for appropriate action.

It is yet to be seen whether the government will intervene to provide compensation or aid to the farmers for if not, the state could witness another set of farmers suicides.